Guns: Same Planet, Different Worlds
David Roberts of Vox explains at length why gun-rights conservatives are mentally challenged by nature, why their beliefs on guns are a result of their insanity, and why only “overwhelming political force” will overcome their obstinacy. Excerpt:
Let us imagine, then, a conservative gun owner — an older white gentleman, let’s say, in his 50s, living in the Rust Belt somewhere. When he was growing up, there was living memory of a familiar order: men working in honorable trade or manufacturing jobs, women tending home and children, Sundays at church, hard work yielding a steady rise up the ladder to a well-earned house, yard, and car.
That order was crumbling just as our gun owner inherited it. The honorable jobs are gone, or going. It’s hell to find work, benefits are for shit, and there isn’t much put aside for retirement. The kids are struggling with debt and low-paying jobs. They know, and our gun owner knows, that they probably aren’t going to have a better life than he did — that the very core of the American promise has proven false for them, for the first time in generations.
It’s a bitter, helpless feeling.
I would like liberal readers to imagine for a moment that a conservative had written a piece trying to explain deep liberal devotion to defending same-sex marriage rights by analyzing them as mental defectives who are beyond reason, and contending that conservatives need to understand that only “overwhelming political force” will be able to overcome them.
The thing is, I think there really is something to be said for how guns are embedded in the psyche of some people (I would say in the American psyche), in such a way that makes it very hard to reason with them. But that is true of all people on issues and causes that matter most to them. I realized a long time ago that reason played no role in the same-sex marriage debate, that liberals considered themselves paragons of reason on it, but when it came right down to it, they would say that marriage rights are non-negotiable. And you know, if it’s a matter of rights, that position makes sense. Second Amendment defenders may well feel the same way: that their Second Amendment rights are not up for debate.
As reader DSP indicates in the comments, Vox is the a mainstream liberal Beltway voice. The Bitter Clingers™ surely know that it’s not paranoid when they really are out to get you.
With 300 million guns in private hands in the United States, it’s very difficult to devise a non-intrusive, “common-sense” approach to regulating their exchange by individuals. Ultimately, you need more than background checks; you need many fewer guns in circulation, period. To their credit, many gun control supporters acknowledge this point, which is why there is a vogue for citing the Australian experience, where a sweeping and mandatory gun buyback followed a 1996 mass shooting.
The clearest evidence shows that Australia’s reform mostly reduced suicides — as the Brady law may have done — while the evidence on homicides is murkier. (In general, the evidence linking gun ownership rates to murder rates is relatively weak.) But a lower suicide rate would be a real public health achievement, even if it isn’t immediately relevant to the mass shooting debate.
Does that make “getting to Australia” a compelling long-term goal for liberalism? Maybe, but liberals need to count the cost. Absent a total cultural revolution in America, a massive gun collection effort would face significant resistance even once legislative and judicial battles had been won. The best analogue is Prohibition, which did have major public health benefits … but which came at a steep cost in terms of police powers, black markets and trampled liberties.
Douthat calls on liberals to use reason about what it would really take to achieve what they want, and to stop clinging bitterly to their shibboleths. Read the whole thing.